27 Sep


Who taught: Jeff, Phil and Jake



I am thinking of getting a puppy. I mean, I have been thinking about it for a while but this time it is a lot more serious.

Why? I blame Mandie. 🙂 Last week, she sent factbook messages with some links to breeders of basset hound, the kind of breed that she has. Looking at puppies, Jessy and I got side-tracked to other breeds too such as labrador retriever and golden retriever. We saw some videos of different puppies. So adorable.

We want a breed that is really patient and friendly with children. To make sure, I searched for it and there were some other people asking the same question. And, naturally, there are many answers to those questions.

Many people said “Mutts are great with children.” Well, I thought mutt is another kind of pure dog breed. Surfing the web to find what mutt is, I found that it means a dog of many mixed breeds. In Korean, we say 잡종 (Jap-Jong).

After I did those researches, I talked to some of my friends that I would get a dog. And, they (Jeff, Phil and Jake) did ask me whether I am going to get a mutt or a pure breed.

Had I not done any research, I would have not been able to understand when they said “mutt.”

I am sure most of my friends in Korea would think by now I would be totally fine with English. Well, not yet. Look at this word. I had no idea what it means until I get into this serious process of getting a dog. Every time I try to do something new here in the U.S., I get to learn new words and expressions. Fortunately…. (I am being sarcastic here)…. I have a lot that I have not tried in the U.S.

Oh… here is another thing. Mutt does not just mean a dog. It could also be used to describe a person. In fact, it is also the case that Korean people say “잡종” to describe a person. As you can imagine, you would want to be careful to do so. In the last 6 years, I have never heard any of my friends using this word to mean a person. So, be careful!

I would get a golden retriever puppy. If I did, I will definitely update you. Stay tuned, my friends!

12 Dec


Who taught: Jeff and Liz

No Littering (source: http://www.signvibe.com/)

As you drive on a highway in the U.S., you will see many different road signs. Maybe I should write a new post about other road signs later to follow up my old post. But, today, I would like to focus on one sign, “No Littering!”

Five and half years ago when I first got to the U.S., I saw this familiar road sign, No Littering, on my way to Washington, D.C. Why was it familiar? 15 years ago when I was in Canada to study English, I saw this sign for the first time. It means “Do not throw any trash!” You should be able to infer its definition which is “to strew with scattered objects or rubbish.” One good example of littering is throwing cigarette butts out of your car while you are driving.

From that moment till very recently, I had thought that ‘litter’ means this throwing things but nothing else. How naive!

Of course, it also means something else. Man.. I really wish one word just means one thing. That would be easier for me even though it also means that I probably need to memorize more words.

About two weeks ago, I visited Jeff and Liz’s house to see their new puppy, Dexter. Dexter is a yellow lab and he is so adorable. While they were talking about the process of his adoption, they used a very familiar word, litter. As soon as they said that word, I had to stop them. “Wait! Did you just say litter? And it means not throwing trashes?” Liz said, “Oh no! It means a small animal like a puppy.” To make sure that it is the same word that I had known, I asked again, “So, is it the same word from No Littering sign but a different meaning?” Jeff said, “Yes, it is the same word.”

Sigh! This is one of those moments that break my belief that I am getting better in English. It makes me feel that I got a long way to go.

Litter does mean a small animal but only used to describe one of those baby animals that were born with many siblings like puppies or kittens (In other words, a number of young brought forth by a multiparous animal at one birth).

After the visit, I asked myself these questions.

What if I were not in the U.S.? Would I be able to have a chance to know this different meaning of the word, litter? 

What if I were not invited by Jeff and Liz? What if I did not ask Dexter’s adoption story? 

This experience had me think a lot. Learning can happen everywhere. I gotta pay attention to all the things happening around me.

Next time if your friends say something that you do not understand, ask them what it means! It is not a shame to ask questions. It is a shame to not to ask and lose a chance to learn.


06 Sep

table it vs shelve it

Who taught: Jeff

table (source: http://www.everyfinehome.com/)

Yesterday was Labor Day in the U.S. In most countries including South Korea, May 1 is Labor Day. Do you know why the U.S. chose a day in September to be Labor Day instead of May 1? It was because President Cleveland was concerned that observance of May 1 would be associated with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements.

If this one would show up on the U.S. Citizenship exam, I could get a point, right?

Speaking of the U.S. being different from other countries, I have a very shocking expression to share today.

Last week, I had a meeting with my friend, Jeff. Talking about English expressions, he asked me a question, “Hey, Terry! Can you guess what ‘table it’ means?”

I thought it should be very easy. So, without hesitation, I said, “That should mean to put something on the table so that people can see what it is and start to discuss it.”

What do you think, my non-native English speaker friends? Don’t you think I got it correct?

Here is the very strange result! If I were in any other English-speaking countries than the U.S., my answer  was totally right. But, it is not in the U.S. In the U.S., a motion to lay something on the table means motion to postpone consideration of a pending motion.

Here is a good example. If your wife wants to talk about having a baby and you think you are not ready, then you can say to your wife, “Honey! Can we table it?”

Sounds awkward, right? But, that is what it means in the U.S.

Now, if you look around your office, what do you see above or beside the table? I bet you have a few shelves. Suppose you put something on one of the shelves, what does it mean? Usually, you do not see or consider it for a while till you grab it from the shelf. Hence, “shelve it” means to postpone consideration of a pending motion. This one means the same in all of the English-speaking countries including the U.S.

So, you may want to stick with ‘shelve it’ instead of using ‘table it’, especially if you are on a trip to the U.K. or Australia, etc.

But, you’d better be able to distinguish ‘table it’ and ‘shelve it’ in the U.S. They are totally opposite.

It is still not very intuitive to think ‘table it’ to mean to postpone something. But, I am in the U.S. and When in Rome!

02 Sep


Who taught: Francesmary

makeup exam (source: http://www.docstoc.com/)

I am a man. Why do I say that? Well, today’s expression is related with gender. When women say makeup, that would most likely to mean cosmetics such as lipstick or powder applied to the face, used to enhance or alter the appearance.

Yesterday, I was at Mike’s place where many of my colleagues got together to celebrate Patty’s promotion. I finally had a chance to meet Jeff’s wife, Francis. As Jeff introduced me to her, he mentioned my blog. As soon as she heard about what the blog is about, she remembered her own experience. She used to know this lady who is a non-native English speaker to whom she mentioned a makeup exam.

When she mentioned a makeup exam, the non-native English speaker’s response was, “What do you mean by the makeup exam? Do you mean there is an exam about how to apply cosmetics?”

Now, can I assume that you all know what a makeup exam is? To have a common ground between you and me, let me explicitly put the definition of it here.

A special examination for a student who has been absent from or has failed a previous examination.

An interesting thing is that, since I know what a makeup exam is, I have never thought that it would be hard for other non-native English speakers to understand what it is. I guess this is exactly the feeling that my native English friends would have when they speak English with me, especially when I ask questions about expressions they use.

P.S: If you are a student, you do not want to take a makeup exam. Usually, that is not a good sign.

By the way, is there really a makeup exam to mean a test about how to apply cosmetics? If so, would a makeup exam make sense?

03 Aug

native American vs native to America

Who taught: Jeff

Native Americans (source: http://www.the-wild-west.co.uk/)

I am a native Korean. How does this sound to you? It sounds OK, right?

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting with my students and Jeff, my colleague. We were talking about last year’s event that all of us were in. And, one of the people we saw there was not American or born in the U.S. Meaning that, I said, “He was not a native American.” Jeff and my students knew what I meant but, at the same time, Jeff knew something might be confusing. So, he said, “I do not think you mean he is not a native American Indian, right?”

This made me think. So, I can easily say that someone is American but there are also many people who are Americans but not born in the United States. When I think of ‘native American,’ I think of the people who are American and also born in the United States. But apparently, there are the real real native Americans who are American Indians. (This is also kind of confusing. You would not want say just Indians because there are other Indians who are from India.)

So, to make things clear, you should say he or she is native to America to mean Americans who are born in the U.S.

Remember! There are differences between native Americans and native to America and Americans. (Native Americans vs native to America vs Americans)

I can become an American later but never be able to become a native American or native to America.

Hope I do not make things more confusing!